Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The End of a Year

Another year is over.  We have ambiguously determined that about ten days after the winter solstice a new year begins.  It's interesting to see how many things we take for granted are basically ambiguous.  Our perception colors everything we believe about the world.  Our unrecognized biases flavor our arguments and reasoning processes.  In order to avoid letting these ambiguities and biases harm our relationships with others and with the Lord, we have to develop charity.

Marvin J. Ashton had this to say about charity.
Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.
My prayer for the new year is that we can all develop more charity for one another.

Friday, December 27, 2013


Many people think that the LDS Church is being a bit paranoid about their religious freedom in the gay marriage debate.  I understand where these people are coming from, but I also understand the view of the Church.  It's important to remember that the Church is no stranger to being persecuted due to their beliefs about marriage.

In 1882, the Edmunds Act officially made Polygamy a felony in the US territories, but that was not how it was actually enforced.  What really happened was anyone who professed to believe in Mormonism was disenfranchised of their vote, the opportunity to hold public office, or to serve on a jury.  It didn't matter if they had ever been in a polygamous relationship or not.

Then the Edmunds Tucker Act a few years later disincorporated the Church and the Perpetual Emigration Fund, seizing most of it's assets, disenfranchised women of their votes in the territory, and prevented children of polygamous marriages from receiving any inheritance.  The Supreme Court upheld the law.

I realize that all this happened over a century ago, but it's hard for the Church to forget such an injustice.

Recently in Hawaii, the marriage bill that was being debated included wording that could make it illegal to hold marriages in churches unless they either allowed same gender marriages or never allowed those not of that religion to use the facilities.  That would not have been a problem for the Temples, but regular church buildings could have been in real trouble.  Eventually, common sense won out and the wording was changed to provide more protection for religious institutions.  This was just a few months ago, not centuries ago.

What I'm saying is that marriage law is not just about marriage.  It can be (and has been) used as a weapon to persecute and intimidate groups of people.  Please, as we re-forge marriage laws and structures, be careful to provide protections to prevent abuse of the laws in such a way.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Logical Fallacies - Appeal to Possibility

I had a friend that encouraged me to read the Foundation series.  I started to read it, but I never picked up the second book because it seemed so logically inconsistent.  It was all the probabilities quoted that bothered me.  The author seemed to believe that the most likely events were events that would happen, at least most of the time.  It's a huge fallacy.  In real life, unlikely events far outnumber likely events, so much that in most cases the more likely events still are not very likely.

The appeal to possibility (sometimes called the appeal to probability) is the argument that since something is a viable possibility (or has a high probability of happening) that we may accept it as a forgone conclusion.  I see this reasoning when people don't believe that I truly love my wife, simply because I'm gay.  They see valid cases of gay men married to women who are not happy in those marriages, and so assume that since the possibility is there, it must be true for me.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  But it makes for a great example of the logical fallacy.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Finding a Soul Mate

I have kids, so I end up seeing lots of animated films.  That's fine, because I really love animated films.  But I remember watching "Hotel Transylvania" and staring in dismay when an awful lie was expressed.  Evidently, in this fictional world, there comes a time in your life when you "zing" (meaning, fall in love) and it only happens once.  If you miss that chance, you are doomed to a life without your one true love.  What an awful message!  Despite the fact that it's a terrible falsehood, too many people believe it.

I recently read a wonderful article describing a very different attitude.  Her story expresses that the person she fell for, her soul mate, didn't work out, but the person she married, she worked with until they became soul mates, not by some magic attraction but by patiently working at their relationship.  You can read the story by clicking here.

I suppose different people will get different message from the article.  To me, it says that a soul mate isn't someone we find, it's someone we work with, sacrifice for, and build up.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Be True to Yourself

I cringe every time I hear this cliche.  It is supposed to mean we should be honest with ourselves, but it is usually intended to convey something subtly different.  It sounds to me like people often really mean to disregard inhibitions.  I agree that sometimes our inhibitions are not healthy, and cause us to be dishonest with ourselves.  But our inhibitions are also parts of ourselves that are very important.

A basic principle of art is that the negative space in a painting is just as important -- sometimes more important -- than the subject in the foreground.  Similarly, our inhibitions and ways we deny ourselves are an important part of our true selves.  I'm a somewhat impulsive person.  Those impulses that I entertain define me in many ways, but those that I choose to deny define me even more clearly.  If you see a man in his 50s that is trim and muscular, it is likely that the person exerts self control over impulses to overeat or laze around.  Care with the diet and regimented exercise are the only way to keep in such good shape into your 50s.  The person is defined by their sacrifices, the things they deny themselves.

When someone says to be true to yourself, what should you be true to?  Your impulses?  Your appetites?  Your indulgences?  Or perhaps your inhibitions?  Your sacrifices?  Your strength of will?

We all make choices to suppress some of our attributes and accentuate others.  The way we do this both expresses and shapes our values.  When our values change, so do these choices.  When our choices change, so do our values.  They are closely interrelated.  So I dislike it when people use the phrase "be true to yourself" to mean "change your values," when it should mean "be honest with yourself."

Friday, December 13, 2013

Be Prepared

President Hunter asked members of the Church to get and keep temple recommends, even if there was not a temple they had the means to visit.  It's an interesting request.  It reminds me of the saints in the early days of the Church from Colesville, New York.  They migrated to Ohio, and knew they were not intending to stay.  But they were commanded, "let them act upon this land as for years, and this shall turn unto them for their good." (Doc&Cov 51:17)  They ended up staying for less than two months.  But they were to act as though they were staying for years.  Develop friendships with neighbors; build bridges; plant crops.  Even if you leave and can't harvest the fruit of your labors, they are good labors, and will bless you.  Even if you don't have an accessible temple, getting a recommend is a good thing, and will bless you.

President Hinckley said something similar to those for whom marriage was not forthcoming.  Be prepared, but live life.  Get an education and become productive.  Be ready if an opportunity arises, but don't obsess about the future.  Grow and develop where you are.  Like the Colesville saints, build bridges, plant crops, develop friendships.

I think something similar can be true when someone has a gay orientation.  When I got back from my mission, I decided I would continue with my education and live a full life regardless of whether or not I found someone who would marry me for who I was.  I figured it would be quite some time before I married because I was not attracted to girls.  It turned out to be not very long, but I was not obsessing over it.  In fact, I was rather unprepared for it when the opportunity came (as my poor wife could attest).

Overall, it's good to be prepared for the things we hope for, but it's also good not to obsess too much about the future but live life here and now.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Commandment to Change

About a decade ago, the leadership of the Church decided to send some of the apostles out to live in other countries.  Elder Oaks was sent to live for a couple years in the Philippines.  While he was there, he realized that the people in that country often felt that in order to join the Church, they had to change their lifestyles, unlike those in America, particularly Utah.  (But maybe not Los Angeles; they had probably seen enough movies to know that LA was populated by people who regularly participated in car chases while shooting guns.  People in LA would have to change to become Mormons.)  I think the idea was something akin to "it's not fair that we have to sacrifice and change, while those in Utah don't."

Elder Oaks gave a great conference talk about the fact that everyone has to change.  Those in Utah have to change.  The scriptures are replete with the commands like "Cry repentance unto every people," or "Repent and be baptized."  The term "every people" includes those in Utah as well as those in more remote locations.

Real growth and progression can only happen when we are humble and willing to change, to sacrifice what we are, to become something greater.  We have to sacrifice the bliss of ignorance in order to become educated.  The commandment to change is a reminder of a necessary part of our own road to happiness and salvation.  In the Lectures on Faith, Joseph Smith taught, “A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.”

It's interesting that I often read of similar kinds of complaints among the gay Mormon community.  It seems that some people have more to sacrifice than others to be a faithful member of the Church.  But while some people's sacrifices are certainly more noticeable than others, everyone needs to sacrifice.  Everyone needs to change.  The call to repentance is for everyone.

I do not mean that we need to change our orientations.  Rather, we need to be humble, teachable, meek, and faithful, for there is power in humility, the power of change.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Self Reliance

One of the things that the Church is always emphasizing is the idea of self reliance.  Caring for ourselves physically and being prepared in case of physical illness, taking care of our social and monetary needs and being prepared for problems in that realm, and getting a good education to overall help with this self reliance has been a hallmark of the Church for many generations.

Sometimes, we forget what it means to be self reliant.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


In Matthew 23, Christ denounces the Pharisees as hypocrites, even though they are the official leaders of the church in Jerusalem.  But it's very notable that He does not denounce their office.  In fact, the opposite is true; He tells the people they still have to follow them.  He said, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat:  All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not."